New products, Conferences, Books, Papers, Internet of Things

Archive for November, 2012

China looks to lead the Internet of Things

From CCN:

When architect James Law looks in the mirror each morning his reflection is not all that greets him — he can also see the weather report, e-mail messages and his heart rate.

“The biggest game changer of the past 25 years has been the Internet,” said Law, whose Cybertecture Mirror is an offshoot of his Hong Kong architectural firm’s focus on integrating technology in design.

“In buildings, the Internet has become ubiquitous but it hasn’t caught up in the products that inhabit buildings — chairs, doors, tables and mirrors.”

Law’s company – and a raft of new government-funded projects in mainland China — is looking to change that. Law’s $5,000 mirror began as product his firm designed for a high-tech residential building in Dubai. “The Internet of Things began to become more real for us as a project,” Law said. “We started to take these things out of our building designs to make them independent products, and try to impregnate them with as much technology as we can.”

If there’s a race to lead the Internet of Things (IoT), China aims to set the pace. Since Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao identified IoT as an “emerging strategic industry” in an interview on state media, Beijing has focused on developing technology by which devices can communicate via infrared sensor, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and other Machine-to-Machine (M2M) technology.

Beijing plans to invest 5 billion yuan ($800 million) in the IoT industry by 2015. The Ministry of Information and Technology estimates China’s IoT market will hit 500 billion yuan ($80.3 billion) by 2015, then double to 1 trillion yuan ($166 billion) by 2020.

More info here.

“Internet of things” to give $10-15 trillion boost to global economy: GE

Productivity gains resulting from the “internet of things” could add between $10 trillion and $15 trillion to global GDP over the next 20 years, according to a new study from General Electric (GE).

The manufacturing giant reckons the “industrial internet”, as it terms the phenomenon, could find direct application in sectors accounting for more than $32.3 trillion in global economic activity, but expects this figure to reach about $82 trillion – one half of global economic output – by 2025.

As noted in the study, an efficiency improvement of just 1% brought about by the use of the industrial internet would yield terrific gains in a variety of sectors.

In the aviation industry, for instance, a 1% improvement in fuel savings would be worth about $30 billion over the next 15 years, while the same efficiency improvement in the global gas-fired power plant fleet could lead to savings of about $66 billion in fuel consumption.

The global health industry could realize savings of more than $63 billion by reducing process inefficiencies by 1%, but the most eye-catching figure is the $90 billion that GE (Fairfield, USA) believes could be slashed from capital expenditure in upstream oil and gas exploration and development, simply through a 1% improvement in capital utilization.

GE says the savings are possible by combining three elements of the industrial internet: “intelligent machines”, “advanced analytics” and “people at work”.

While the industrial internet starts with the embedding of sensors in an array of machines, it is the collection and analysis of data this process allows that generates much of the savings, with an additional boost provided by connecting people at work or on the move.

Using the example of the aviation industry, GE says that each of the three pieces of rotating equipment in a single jet engine could be instrumented and monitored separately.

More info here.

On Sale At Last: Twine, Your Gateway To The Internet Of Things

A year ago, two MIT Media Lab graduates raised half a million dollars on Kickstarter to create Twine, a cigarette-pack-sized chunk of Internet magic that promised to turn any object in your home into a web-connected, interactive “smart product”. Want your basement pipes to send you a text message when they’re in danger of freezing up, or your garage door to ping you if you forget to close it? No problem: With Twine, building your own personal “Internet of things” is supposed to be easier than programming a VCR. And now that the product is available for purchase, it looks like creators John Kestner and David Carr have very nearly delivered on that ambitious promise.

How do you get a non-hacker to even understand a device like Twine? With product design that would make Steve Jobs proud. Kestner, who studied industrial design as an undergraduate, tells Co.Design that “we wanted to wrap the functionality in something that didn’t read as an electronic object.” Twine is packed with sensors that detect temperature, moisture, and position, but it’s as light, small, and unassuming as a pack of gum. “It’s just a solid chunk of connectivity,” Kestner says. “We settled onelastomer [for the outer case]–it feels great to the touch, and reads as durable, friendly, and decidedly non-electronic.”

But Twine is also intriguingly mysterious: Flip the rubbery, featureless box over on its back and two instructions reveal themselves: “Place this side up,” and “go to Twinesetup.com.” From there, configuring Twine feels like an adventure instead of a chore. Wow, it just connected to the Web by itself–now a little light is turning on–whoa, now I can see an image of it in my Web browser, sensing the temperature–what will this thing do next?

Building this sense of wonder and delight right out of the box is essential to making Twine feel useful. If you think of it as a little magic box that can do anything–kind of like a Swiss Army knife crossed with a Tamagotchi–you’re more likely to find its open-ended possibilities inspiring instead of intimidating. After all, there’s no instruction manual. Once your Twine is set up, the dashboard in your Web browser invites you to set up “rules” (which are actually simple programs) for telling it what to do. I just moved into a new house with a cold basement office, so I used the simple drop-down menus to program my Twine to send me a text message saying “Get a space heater, doofus” whenever the temperature drops below 70°.

More info here.

Encryption Libraries for Waspmote Sensor Networks (AES / RSA)

Libelium has released a set of Encryption Libraries for Waspmote and Plug & Sense!™ sensor platforms in order to ensure the authentication, confidentiality (privacy) and integrity of the information gathered by the sensors. To do so different cryptography algorithms including AES 256 and RSA 1024 have been implemented in the libraries and released under an open source license.

Read more.

Listening for tired machinery

Software is making its way into places where it hasn’t usually been before, like the cutting surfaces of very fast, ultra-precise machine tools.

A high-speed milling machine can run at 42,000 RPM as it fabricates high-quality machine components within tolerances of a few microns. Excessive wear in that environment can lead to a failure that ruins an expensive part, but it’s difficult to use physical means to detect wear on cutting surfaces: human operators can’t see it and detailed microscopic inspections are costly. The result is that many operators simply replace parts on a pre-determined schedule — every two months, perhaps — that ends up being overly conservative.

Enter software: in a paper delivered to the IEEE’s Industrial Electronics Society in Montreal last Thursday*, a group of researchers from Singapore propose a way to use low-cost sensors along with machine learning algorithms to accurately predict wear on machine parts — a technique that could cut costs for manufacturers by lengthening the lifespan of machine parts while avoiding failures.

The group’s demonstration is a promising illustration of the industrial Internet, which promises to bring more intelligence to machines by linking them to networks and integrating them with sophisticated software. Techniques from areas like machine learning, which can be computationally intensive, can thus be available in monitoring parts as small and common as cutting surfaces in milling machines.

“This is a simple optimization problem,” says Meng Joo Er, a professor at the Nanyang Technological University and an author of the paper. “But you’re talking about a very expensive piece of equipment working on a very expensive product. We have to be very careful.”

More info here.

Quake sensor harvests energy from tremors

A wireless vibration sensor being developed by a Victoria University student could provide a low-cost solution for engineers to monitor the damage of buildings affected by earthquakes – and, more impressively, harnesses the kinetic energy generated by the tremors in order to power itself.

Daniel Tomicek has been working on the innovative device – designed to be placed at several locations around a building to monitor the stress sustained by different areas during an earthquake – as part of his final year research project.

It also uses the energy of the building’s movement during an earthquake to power itself, measuring the acceleration of the movement, and transmitting information in the form of data packets to an off-site computer. The greater the vibrations, the greater the energy harvested and the more data packets that are sent.

The data can then be used by engineers to help assess the extent of damage to the building.

Currently, no sensor exists in the marketplace that doesn’t rely on batteries or electricity supply to run, he says.
Tomicek has been testing the sensor’s capabilities at Te Papa’s Earthquake House in its Awesome Forces exhibit, where the device monitored ‘earthquakes’ at the house over the course of a week.

“Testing at the Earthquake House was a real success. The device managed to sense each earthquake and send packets of information for each one.”

He says he was inspired to create a kinetic sensor after a friend worked on a similar project during a summer research scholarship at Victoria University.

He had also heard about applications being developed in Europe, where special springs added to dance floors in nightclubs can harness an electrical current generated by the movement of dancers, which is then stored in batteries and used to run devices.

More info here.

Glimpse of your life in 2020 thanks to the Internet of Things

What if all objects were interconnected and started to sense their surroundings and communicate with each other? The Internet of Things (IoT) will have that sort of ubiquitous machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity. Since there are estimates that between 50 billion to 500 billion devices will have a mobile connection to the cloud by 2020, here’s a glimpse of our possible future.

Your alarm clock signals the lights to come on in your bedroom; the lights tell the heated tiles in your bathroom to kick on so your feet are not cold when you go to shower. The shower tells your coffee pot to start brewing. Your smartphone checks the weather and tells you to wear your gray suit since RFID tags on your clothes confirm that your favorite black suit is not in your closet but at the dry cleaners. After you pour a cup of java, the mug alerts your medication that you have a drink in-hand and your pill bottle begins to glow and beep as a reminder. Your pill bottle confirms that you took your medicine and wirelessly adds this info to your medical file at the doctor’s office; it will also text the pharmacy for a refill if you are running low.

Your smart TV automatically comes on with your favorite news channel while you eat breakfast and browse your tablet for online news. After you’ve eaten, while you are brushing your teeth, your dishwasher texts your smartphone to fire up your vehicle via the remote start. Because your“smart” car can talk to other cars and the road, it knows what streets to avoid due to early morning traffic jams. Your phone notifies you that your route to work has been changed to save you time. And you no longer need to look for a place to park, since your smartphone reserved one of the RFID parking spaces marked as “open” and available in the cloud. Don’t worry about your smart house because as you exited it, the doors locked, the lights went off, and the temperature was adjusted to save energy and money.

More info here.

Having a headache using legacy IoT devices?

From Ericsson’s labs blog:

At ETSI’s 3rd workshop on Machine to Machine (M2M) communications held in Mandelieu France, we presented how different devices can be wrapped and exposed as proper IoT devices, including a live demo.

The Headache

For any IoT deployment, sensor and actuator devices are fundamental. Embedded technologies have been around for years, but the technologies used are very diverse. Interfaces, networking, and application layer protocols exist in many shapes and forms. This technology fragmentation is a fact, as presented in a previous blog post. For any deployment to grow into a true Internet of Things, this technology fragmentation must be overcome.

There are two possible paths: either standardization of new, universally acceptable protocols, or interworking and integration of these heterogeneous device technologies. One can, of course, discuss the feasibility of each of these two different paths. This time, we would like to let you know how we have explored the latter path, namely IoT device integration via IoT Gateways. We will come back to the former path in a later blog post…

Figure: Gateways in an IoT system context

Gateways are traditionally thought to bridge two different technologies on the interface level, e.g. to bridge an IEEE 802.15.4 based wireless sensor network to a wide area networking technology like cellular. Gateways can also be used to integrate a larger set of heterogeneous interfaces on one side to a uniform interface on the other side (see figure above). A lot of focus has been put on bridging legacy device networks onto the Internet, i.e. ensuring that IP can be used as the common networking protocol throughout. This is, of course, very good and definitely a step in the right direction towards an Internet of Things, but it doesn’t have to stop there.

Read the whole post here.

Big Data set to explode as 40 Billion new devices connect to internet

If you think we’ve got Big Data problems now—with “only” about 9 billion devices connected to the Internet—what’s the situation going to be like when that number soars to 50 billion at the end of the decade?

Forbes Magazine reported recently that Oracle president Mark Hurd recently raised the possibility that unless businesses and government agencies can seize control over that Big Data explosion, then they’ll run the risk of simply being overwhelmed by vast volumes of data that they can’t find, control, manage, or secure—let alone analyze and exploit.

As a ZD.net article reported:
“Hurd said that the world was “drowning” in vast amounts of data — which has grown eightfold in the past seven years — and companies are running out of space to store it all. With more than nine billion existing devices connected to the Internet, end businesses are struggling to cope with storing the vast amounts of data they collect.”

“Not only will the capacity for storage need to increase, he warned of a growing concern is the ability to store such vast amounts of data securely. Another growing problem is the ability to process the vast amount of data through data process or real-time analytics.”

Indeed—what happens when that already-tricky situation is compounded dramatically as an additional 40 billion devices get connected to the Internet over the next several years and begin streaming out massive volumes of data about speeds and location and performance degradation and volume of usage and even such vital but narrowly focused applications such as whether or not your morning coffee is ready?

To help understand some of those implications, a new study commissioned by Oracle outlines some of the impacts those billions of devices will have on the data demands of businesses and other large organizations—and if we think our challenges today are best described as “Big Data,” just wait.

More info here.

tado° Launches Internet-connected Thermostat based on Thingsquare Mist

Innovative greentech startup tado° today launched their Internet-connected tado° home thermostat. tado° connects the heating system with a smartphone app to combine instant comfort with energy savings by adjusting indoor climate to weather forecasts, user behavior, and individual building characteristics. The tado° system uses Thingsquare Mist to connect the tado° thermostats to the Internet.

Unlike traditional thermostats, tado° does not have knobs, buttons, or even a display. Instead, tado° uses a smartphone app to control the indoor comfort, allowing tado° to save energy by turning down the heating or AC when the last person has left the house – without anyone having to lift a finger. Being Internet-connected, tado° thermostats use a range of energy-saving features that keeps on improving as the number of tado° installations increase. In a pilot study, tado° users have already saved up to 30% on their heating bills.

“The tado° system leads the way for a new generation of Internet-connected consumer products, often called the Internet of Things”, said Thingsquare co-founder Adam Dunkels. “tado° is a striking example of how innovative products can make effective use of emerging Internet of Things technology.”

“By choosing Thingsquare Mist, we were able to develop an Internet-connected product in a surprisingly short amount of time”, said tado° co-founder and CTO Johannes Schwarz. “Internet-connectivity is at the heart of our product and our customers value hassle-free installation, something that Thingsquare Mist helped us bring to our system.”

The tado° system is available immediately via http://www.tado.com/, with an introductory price of 99 EUR per year.

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